No discussion of John Stearns ever gets too far without mentioning he’s the Mets catcher who took out Chief Noc-A-Homa with an open-field tackle. He was a four-time Mets All-Star and famously to me at least set a stolen-base-by-catchers mark in 1978 that got him hios own record-breakers card but his propensity to run down mascots–and rogue fans–are one of those things that will be mentioned in his obituary.
At the same time, while all Mets fans seem to know of these encounters with the Braves’ mascot, there’s a remarkable lack of specificity as to when this event actually happened. After all, tackles aren’t an official stat in the same way the uniform number is not really a stat: We associate with them, we tend to remember them, but only us geeks bother to commit it to the record. This guy mentions the very same phenomenon when it comes to Stearns’ fan encounters: I happened across that today while looking up the Noc-A-Homa situation.
A lot of online accounts say the Noc-A-Homa-Stearns brewhaha took place in 1977. Longtime Mets PR maven Jay Horwitz said it happened in 1984–which is highly unlikely given the catcher’s fragile physical condition then. I couldn’t substantiate either of those dates but I did find something interesting: There wasn’t one encounter but two:
The first took place in 1975, this poorly written and laid out Daily News piece shows (the lines are reversed at one point, a cut-and-paste back when they actually cut-and-pasted newspapers.
Then in 1981, Stearns gets his man a second time: